China and India both sought to play down Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks on Monday that India should prepare to deal with a new Chinese assertiveness and desire for a foothold in South Asia.
Asked if Beijing was angered by these remarks, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman preferred to stress “good neighbourly relations with India” and the two countries’ “common interests” in Asia.
"We want to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia and to honour the five principles of co-existence to work with South Asian countries, including India, to develop good neighbourliness and cooperation,’’ said spokesman Jiang Yu on Tuesday.
A report, which Indian officials declined to comment upon but did not deny, quoted Singh as saying Beijing’s continuing “pinpricks,” such as the recent Chinese actions regarding Kashmir, were designed “to keep India in a low-level equilibrium.” Singh noted Beijing “new assertiveness” but added that the present Beijing leadership would change in another two years.
India did not know which way China would go after that and therefore, had “to be prepared.”
Indian sources said Beijing has not taken previous statements of this nature lightly. In 2009 in Washington, Singh had spoken of Chinese “assertiveness” – and China had raised the matter through diplomatic channels. Beijing, said an official, “takes note of as well as takes up” such remarks with New Delhi.
India’s stated position on China, which Singh did mention during his meeting with editors on Monday, has been that "cooperation and competition" are two components of India-China ties. But there is enough space for the two countries to meet their respective economic growth aspirations.